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      Ian described the proposed EU sanctions on Russia as “not shabby”, but while they are somewhat more serious sanctions than heretofore it’s only somewhat. The most serious ones are the ones on Russia’s financial institutions. Yes it’ll raise costs but will hurt London and Frankfurt including reputationally. It will also have the effect of encouraging [...] […]
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Obligatory New Years Eve Open Thread


Happy New Year, Feliz Año Nuevo and Gung Hay Fat Choy!

We here at The Confluence want to thank you all for putting up with us for another year. Eventually we’ll figure out this blogging thing.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss New Year’s resolutions, but tonight is the time for excess and overindulgence.

Live it up tonight. As my grandpa used to say, “You’re not drunk unless you have to hang on to the grass to keep from fallin’ off the earth!”



Naomi Wolf – Anti-Feminist of the year

Her eyes are blue because she's a quart low


Just when you think she’s plumbed the depths of stupidity, she grabs a shovel and starts digging:

Why is Rape Different?

As Swedish prosecutors’ sex-crime allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange play out in the international media, one convention of the coverage merits serious scrutiny. We know Assange by name. But his accusers – the two Swedish women who have brought the complaints against him – are consistently identified only as “Miss A” and “Miss W,” and their images are blurred.

News organizations argue that the policy is motivated by respect for the alleged victims. But the same organizations would never report charges of, say, fraud – or, indeed, non-sexual assault – against a suspect who has been named on the basis on anonymous accusations. In fact, despite its good intentions, providing anonymity in sex-crime cases is extremely harmful to women.

The convention of not naming rape accusers is a relic of the Victorian period, when rape and other sex crimes were being codified and reported in ways that prefigure our own era. Rape was seen as “the fate worse than death,” rendering women – who were supposed to be virgins until marriage – “damaged goods.”

Virginia Woolf called the ideal of womanhood in this period “The Angel in the House”: a retiring, fragile creature who could not withstand the rigors of the public arena. Of course, this ideal was a double-edged sword: their ostensible fragility – and their assigned role as icons of sexual purity and ignorance – was used to exclude women from influencing outcomes that affected their own destinies. For example, women could not fully participate under their own names in legal proceedings.

Indeed, one of the rights for which suffragists fought was the right to be convicted of one’s own crimes. Nonetheless, even after women gained legal rights – and even as other assumptions about women have gone the way of smelling salts and whalebone stays – the condescending Victorian convention of not identifying women who make sex-crime charges remains with us.

That convention not only is an insult to women, but also makes rape prosecutions far more difficult. Overwhelmingly, anonymity serves institutions that do not want to prosecute rapists or sexual harassers.

[...]

It is wrong – and sexist – to treat female sex-crime accusers as if they were children, and it is wrong to try anyone, male or female, in the court of public opinion on the basis of anonymous accusations. Anonymity for rape accusers is long overdue for retirement.

I guess it never occurred to Naomi that the thought of having their names publicized would deter many rape victims from reporting the crime to law enforcement. Rape isn’t quite the same thing as getting your car stolen or your home burglarized.

This is actually hard to write a reaction to because it’s surreal. My first reaction was “She didn’t really say that, did she?” I had to check and make sure this wasn’t a spoof by The Onion.

But then again it’s not like Naomi had any feminist credibility left to lose.



UPDATE:

The Guardian has reprinted Naomi’s inanity.


The Empire Strikes Back

Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do when they come for you?


Nobody saw this coming:

FBI Raids Texas Company in Hunt for Anonymous

The FBI has raided a Texan hosting company and seized equipment believed to have been used in the distributed denial of service attacks that targeted supposed “enemies” of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, which included the likes of PayPal and MasterCard.

It was actually PayPal that set the wheels in motion, as investigators working for the company supplied the FBI with eight IP addresses that had hosted an IRC chat of Anonymous members. Agents operating out of the Bureau’s San Francisco office then began to trace at least two of the IPs, with help from law enforcement organizations in Europe.

The first IP was traced back to a company called Host Europe, which is based in Germany. The German Federal Criminal Police investigated further and discovered that the server in question belonged to a man in France, but that it had been compromised by a third party. The IP of this third party put the ball back in the FBI’s court, as it originated from a dedicated server hosting company based in Dallas, Texas. Agents copied the contents of two hard drives from inside the server on December 16th, but the Bureau not revealed what – if anything – it has discovered.

The second IP that PayPal handed over was traced to a server held by a Californian hosting company. It’s not known at this time if the FBI has also seized data from this second site, but it seems a reasonably safe assumption that it did.

It was inevitable that the government would do something like this. There is no such thing as “anonymous” on the Internet anymore (if there ever was.) Anything you do online can be monitored, traced and/or tracked. The feds have the resources and the will to do it.

I said before that those 15 year old hackers from 20 years ago are now 35 year old cyber-security experts. Some of them work for the government.

Before the usual suspects start calling me an authoritarian again, this isn’t about what I think should happen. This is about what I think WILL happen.

The feds are gonna catch some of these wannabe revolutionaries. Not all, but some. Then they are gonna make an example out of the ones they catch.


You can read the warrant affidavit here.



Quick! I need an appetizer recipe

I need help. I have to bring an appetizer that needs minimal heating to a party tomorrow. I used to bring Reuben dip but everyone has seen that one a zillion times. None of the other recipes in my myriad books seem to fit the criteria that isn’t along the lines of the same, lame seven layered dip variety.

Put your suggestions down below. Unusual is better. Nothing like marinated seafood. (been there, done that). This crowd had very jaded tastes.

Ok, go!

Foliehatt Friday


This week’s foliehatt goes to: Jennifer Rubin

Is Palin-mania A Liberal Plot?

Apparently PDS is bipartisan.


From Seward’s Folly:

Murkowski certified Senate election winner
Sen. Lisa Murkowski was officially named the winner of Alaska’s U.S. Senate race Thursday, following a legal battle that lasted longer than the write-in campaign she waged to keep her job.

Oh goody, instead of another Republican in the Senate we get . . . a Republican.


China keeps building walls:

China makes Skype illegal
China on Thursday announced that it had made illegal the use of Skype, the popular internet telephony service, as the country continues to shut itself off from the rest of the world.

Oh, well. There wasn’t anybody there I wanted to talk to anyway.


Paul is shrill today:

The New Voodoo
Hypocrisy never goes out of style, but, even so, 2010 was something special. For it was the year of budget doubletalk — the year of arsonists posing as firemen, of people railing against deficits while doing everything they could to make those deficits bigger.

I think it’s terrible the way people want to defame a perfectly good religion by associating it with economics.


Speaking of which:

Academic Economists to Consider Ethics Code
Academic economists, particularly those active in policy debates in Washington and Wall Street, are facing greater scrutiny of their outside activities these days. Faced with a run of criticism, including a popular movie, leaders of the American Economic Association, the world’s largest professional society for economists, founded in 1885, are considering a step that most other professions took a long time ago — adopting a code of ethical standards.

I thought one of the defining characteristics of a profession was a code of ethics. Now if only bloggers would get one.


All good things must end:

Stanford women end UConn’s winning streak at 90

The Streak ended here.

Finally, after 90 games and more than 32 months of non-stop winning, top-ranked Connecticut lost Thursday night. Jeanette Pohlen scored 31 points as Stanford jumped ahead early and rolled merrily away to win 71-59 before a raucous capacity crowd at Maples Pavilion.

It was a convincing and historic outcome. UConn’s run of 90 consecutive victories counted as the longest winning streak in NCAA basketball history, men or women.

Thanks to Title IX the girls get to play too. Predictions of the ruin and destruction of college sports turned out to be wrong.


Apparently you right coast types had a few snowflakes recently:

NYC mayor to probe claims that workers delayed snow cleanup

Four days after a monster blizzard blanketed much of the northeastern U.S., New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will investigate whether sanitation workers intentionally delayed cleanup efforts over frustrations regarding citywide budget cuts.

Cuz you know it couldn’t have been the mayor’s fault, right?


Peachy-keen news from Obama’s Good War:

US military investigates ‘death squad’ accused of murdering Afghans

Brigadier general to conduct review of 5th Stryker brigade as evidence emerges of widespread complicity in deaths

If you kill them, their hearts and minds will follow.


Transocean questions CSB’s power to probe oil spill: report
Transocean Ltd has written to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), challenging the federal agency’s authority to investigate April’s deep-water drilling accident, Bloomberg said.

Under federal law, floating rigs are exempt from oversight by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, Rachel Clingman, an attorney for Transocean, said in a letter to the agency, Bloomberg reported.

Where did all that oil go, anyway?


Today in History:

1967 Oakland Raiders beat Houston Oilers 40-7 in AFL championship game
1962 “Match Game” debuts on NBC with host Gene Rayburn
1935 Charles Darrow patents Monopoly

Birthdays today:

1959 Bebe Neuwirth
1959 Val Kilmer
1948 Donna Summer
1943 John Denver
1937 Anthony Hopkins

Deaths:

1999 Elliot Richardson
1985 Rick Nelson
1972 Roberto Clemente


The #1 movie in the country:


Horse-pucky


Investor’s Business Daily says I live in Zimbabwe:

Yet far from being a paradise, Fresno is starting to resemble Zimbabwe or 1930s Ukraine, a victim of a famine machine that is entirely man-made, not by red communists this time, but by greens.

State and federal officials, driven by the agenda of environmental extremists, have made it extremely difficult for the valley’s farms, introducing costly environmental regulations and cutting off critical water supplies to save the Delta smelt, a bait fish. It’s all driving the economy to collapse.

In the southwest part of the Central Valley, water allotments as low as 10% of normal have created a visible dust bowl. The knock-on effect can be seen in cities like Fresno, where November’s unemployment among the packers, cannery workers and professional fields that make agriculture productive stands at 16.9%.

Other Central Valley cities such as Hanford-Corcoran, Merced, Modesto, Stockton and Visalia-Porterville have similar jobless numbers, the highest in the country. The Wal-Mart Foundation notes that “24.1% of families in this community (Fresno) cannot afford regular meals compared to a national average of 9.2%.”

I live in Merced, one hour north of Fresno. The city and county of Merced get their names from the Merced River. That river was originally named El Rio De La Nuestra Senora De La Merced (The River of Our Lady of Mercy) by some Spanish explorers who were dying of thirst until they found the stream of agua fria that originates from Yosemite.

The climate around here is called “semi-arid.” We get plenty of precipitation, the problem is 90%+ comes between November and March. Some drops on our heads and the rest ends up as snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas.

Back in the old days the Central Valley was an impassable swamp during the Winter and Spring and a dusty desert in the Summer and Fall. Then dams and irrigation canals were installed.

We have great soil for growing stuff and good weather too. With hydroengineering we became an agricultural powerhouse. Like most agricultural areas that never translated to a high standard of living but we did okay.

Lately things haven’t been quite so rosy, but the reason isn’t the Delta Smelt. We have two main problems. The first is human population, here and down south. Too much of our water is wasted creating green oasis with manicured lawns, flower gardens and swimming pools, here and in Los Angeles.

But the biggest problem is persistent drought. When I was a kid we had an occasional dry year between the normal wet years. Letely we get an occasional wet year in between dry years. The general consensus is the cause of this increasingly arid climate is a thing called “global warming.”

I’d say the environmentalists have won this round.

BTW – Investor’s Business Daily should have thought twice about running this story when Sierra snowpack is 200% of average and we’re dealing with flooding. It might have given them a little more credibility.


Delta Mendota Canal


Immoral Open Thread


When asked if he wanted water in his whiskey, Fields replied, “I don’t drink water. Fish fuck in it.

What are your bad habits?


More Assange


Nick Davies of The Guardian:

Jagger also insists that she has a right to know who leaked the file to the Guardian and says that the leak was part of “an obvious effort to conduct a smear campaign” against Assange. Setting aside for a moment the head-splitting hypocrisy that a supporter of WikiLeaks wants to hunt down the source of a leak, there are two similar problems with this claim. First, Jagger has no idea who leaked that file (and made no attempt to find out). Second, if she did know, she would discover that the source had no intention of smearing Assange in any way.

I am not going to serve up that source’s identity to satisfy Jagger’s temper. A police file like that gets widely distributed. It happened to make its way quite legitimately into the hands of somebody I have come across in the past. This person has absolutely no connection with the Swedish prosecutor or the Swedish police or any other individual or organization with any kind of antipathy to Assange. The source passed it on, and I got it translated.

Assange’s UK lawyer tried very hard to persuade us to suppress the file. He argued that since Assange had been a source for our stories, we should ‘protect’ him. I reckon that that is an invitation to journalistic corruption, to hide information in order to curry favor with a source. We were right to publish.

Jagger calls this ‘trial by media’. I call it an attempt to inject some evidence into a global debate which has been fueled by speculation and misinformation. On August 21, when this story first broke, Assange used Twitter to spread the idea that the two women who had gone to the police were engaged in ‘dirty tricks’. His lawyer subsequently claimed that a ‘honeytrap’ had been sprung. Assange’s celebrity supporters have announced to the mass media that the allegations are ‘without foundation’, that ‘there is no prima facie evidence’. These statements have gone around the world. Millions of well-meaning people have been persuaded to believe them. The two women, who have been identified on the Internet, have had their reputations ruined by the claim that they cruelly colluded to destroy an innocent man. The Swedish police and prosecutors have been held up to ridicule as corrupt and/or incompetent partners in the plot.

Some people got their knickers twisted last week over alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Turns out there was none.

Yes, I am smirking.

Raw Story:

Middle Eastern leaders who’ve become friendly with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could face severe retribution from their local populations if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is killed or jailed for a lengthy amount of time.

That’s because, in a recent interview with Arabic news network Al Jazeera, Assange allegedly warned that he had a document which reveals the identities of officials who voluntarily cultivated relationships with the CIA.

“These officials are spies for the US in their countries,” he reportedly told the network.

“If I am killed or detained for a long time, there are 2,000 websites ready to publish the remaining files,” Assange was quoted as having said. “We have protected these websites through very safe passwords.”

Of course nobody has tried to kill him yet, and the only charges against him are the ones in Sweden, but any minute now . . .

Bill Weinberg:

The most blatantly irritating thing is abject demonization of the women who have made the charges of sexual abuse against Assange. In any other context, the summary dismissal of a woman’s rape accusations would be seen as utterly politically incorrect. But Assange gets away with anti-feminist rhetoric that would do Rush Limbaugh proud. In an interview now receiving widespread coverage in the British press (e.g. The Telegraph, Dec. 26), Assange says: “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism… I fell into a hornets’ nest of revolutionary feminism.” Assange added that one of the women who said she was assaulted took a “trophy photo” of him lying naked in her bed.

Excuse me while I get out the brain bleach.


Thursday, Shake, rattle and roll

It might be hard for modern generations to believe it but, there was a time when Presidents didn’t complain about the hard work of being President of the United States. (que sappy music) There was a time when we all got a little excited by the possibilities of new challenges. And few things represent those thrills like the “Rosie the Riveter” poster. The look of tough determination on Rosie’s face has inspired generations of Americans to meet challenges they never expected.

Geraldine Doyle, 86, dies; one-time factory worker inspired Rosie the Riveter and ‘We Can Do It!’ poster

Geraldine Doyle, 86, who as a 17-year-old factory worker became the inspiration for a popular World War II recruitment poster that evoked female power and independence under the slogan “We Can Do It!,” died Dec. 26 at a hospice in Lansing, Mich.

. . .

Rosie’s rolled-up sleeves and flexed right arm came to represent the newfound strength of the 18 million women who worked during the war and later made her a figure of the feminist movement.

But the woman in the patriotic poster was never named Rosie, nor was she a riveter. All along it was Mrs. Doyle, who after graduating from high school in Ann Arbor, Mich., took a job at a metal factory, her family said.

An amazingly in depth story — Geraldine only worked at that plant for 2 weeks. She was a cellist and after finding out that a co-worker’s hands were badly injured in an accident she found another job in a soda fountain/bookstore. And it never occurred to her that she was the model for the poster until she read an article about its history in 1984.


What do you do with a Congressman, when he stops being your Congressman?

Kucinich worries his district will be eliminated

In an e-mail to supporters Wednesday, the seven-term Democratic congressman and two-time presidential candidate says the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature is likely to eliminate his heavily Democratic Cleveland-area district.

But Kucinich says he’s not just going to stand by while that happens.

“I will not wait until a new Ohio map is produced to begin this crucial discussion of the consequences of congressional redistricting,” writes Kucinich. “I will not wait until the Ohio Legislature produces a new map to start thinking of the options. The question will not be: Who is my opponent? The question will be: Where is my district? Seriously.”

Kucinich has let us down too many times for me to think it’s the worst thing in the world for him to lose his seat. But (in spite of that foolish decision to get on Air Force One that fateful day), he’s pretty to close to being all we’ve got.


Crap! Who would have guessed this?

Delaying Sex Makes Better Relationships, Study Finds

Delaying sex makes for a more satisfying and stable relationship later on, new research finds.

Couples who had sex the earliest — such as after the first date or within the first month of dating — had the worst relationship outcomes.

. . .

“Curiously, almost 40 percent of couples are essentially sexual within the first or second time they go out, but we suspect that if you asked these same couples at this early stage of their relationship – ‘Do you trust this person to watch your pet for a weekend many could not answer this in the affirmative’ – meaning they are more comfortable letting people into their bodies than they are with them watching their cat,” Busby said.


Did you feel something this morning?

4.2 magnitude earthquake hits north central Indiana

Gabrielle Sauce, who co-owns an advertising/marketing company agency in Noblesville, said she was working while sitting on her couch when “the house began to rattle and shake. It lasted probably 5 to 7 seconds.”

>> Fritz Wurster, 12, was asleep in the upper berth of a bunk bed when the ladder began shaking. “I thought my friend was jumping on it trying to wake me up, but then I realized I didn’t have a friend over,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I fell back asleep, and about 10 minutes later my sister rushed into my room and said, ‘Did you feel that earthquake?'”


Life is so complicated — now we’ve got to worry about taking the wrong lunch box to school:

Lunchbox mix-up leads to charges for Sanford teen

An athletic and academic standout in Lee County said a lunchbox mix-up has cut short her senior year of high school and might hurt her college opportunities.

Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, was suspended from Southern Lee High School in October after school personnel found a small paring knife in her lunchbox.

Smithwick said personnel found the knife while searching the belongings of several students, possibly looking for drugs.

“She got pulled into it. She doesn’t have to be a bad person to be searched,” Smithwick’s father, Joe Smithwick, said.

The lunchbox really belonged to Joe Smithwick, who packs a paring knife to slice his apple. He and his daughter have matching lunchboxes.

“It’s just an honest mistake. That was supposed to be my lunch because it was a whole apple,” he said.

Ashley Smithwick said she had never gotten in trouble before and was surprised when the principal opened her lunchbox and found the knife.

The teen was initially given a 10-day suspension, then received notice that she was suspended the rest of the school year.


I can just see myself asking a surgeon if he’s had a nap:

Researchers urge doctors to disclose sleep fatigue before surgery

Medical institutions should put into place policies to minimize the likelihood of a sleep-deprived doctor performing elective surgery, researchers said Wednesday in an editorial.

Absent such policies, sleep-deprived doctors should — at a minimum — tell their patients about their sleep status prior to performing any elective surgery, and offer those patients the opportunity to postpone the procedure or select a different surgeon, said the editorial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Examples of the dangerous effects of sleep deprivation are not tough to find.

“Once, when I was a med student, assisting in a complicated abdominal surgery case by holding a retractor, the student opposite me (that is, holding the other side of the patient open) fell asleep and slid down to the floor,” said one doctor, who did not want to be identified because he did not want to embarrass his colleague. He noted that he and the other student had both been up all night the night before. “One of the nurses simply dragged the student out of the way and a resident who was scrubbed in took over holding the retractor. No harm to the patient at all, but it was odd.”

“Odd.” That’s the least of it.


That’s it around here — what’s new in your neighborhood?

Thursday: overslept


You may have to jump

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Just sayin’.  You can discover more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer at this Speaking of Faith podcast.

Right to Lifer gunman kills two at Boston abortion clinics.  Time to take matters into your own hands, ladies and get government out of your uterus.  Go underground.

Tennessee Guerilla Women posted this movie trailer the other day about what women face in this country.  Funny how you tend to get used to this crap.

500 years, eh?  Well. *that* sucks.  What we need is a woman starting her OWN network, delivering the news in a gender neutral fashion, you know someone like Oprah.

Oh wait, she was the one who gave us Obama.  Nevermind.

The New York Times reports that the nomination of the next Republican candidate for president may be out of the party’s hands.  Yeah, and I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn.  Are you kidding me?  Republicans are the ultimate control freaks.  I take that back.  The 2008 DEMOCRATS were the ultimate control freaks.  If Hillary had been running in the Republican primaries in 2008, she would have had the whole thing sewn up on superdupertuesday and Obama would have spent the next four years in the Senatorial obscurity he was showing such a talent for.

Tom Watson has a review of the book “You Are Not a Gadget” by Jaron Lanier.  Watson argues that Lanier’s point is that social networking technology has the capacity to dehumanize us and makes us vulnerable to those who seek power.  I would argue that that has already happened (see quote at top of page).  Here’s the money quote from Watson’s review:

Lanier’s point is that by reducing personality and the wide sweep of human thought into chunks that can fit easily into databases and digested through clever widely-popular front end designs, the possibility for horrific “crowd-sourced” activity is that much greater. To put it simply, the good guys don’t always win. Throughout history, they’ve often been shouted down by crowds. While it’s impossible to argue with the sunny opening lines of the introduction to Yochai Benkler’s seminal Internet text The Wealth of Networks – “Information, knowledge and culture are central to human freedom and human development” – and to sympathize with a point of view that argues that great access to those qualities improves the lot of mankind, Lanier’s warnings also seem in tune with the times.

It’s not crazy to worry that, with millions of people connected through a medium that sometimes brings out their worst tendencies, massive, fascist-style mobs could rise up suddenly. I worry about the next generation of young people around the world growing up with internet-based technology that emphasizes crowd aggregation, as is the current fad. Will they be more likely to succumb to pack dynamics when they come of age?

That kind of thinking flies in the face of a more utopian view of free information, embodied in hacker philosopher Richard Stallman’s famous ’90s proclamation that when “information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving.” I’d naturally ask “what does generally useful mean?” and Lanier goes a step further, noting that the free flow of information also brings large-scale vitriol to arguments between semi-anonymous actors on the Net. “What’s to prevent the acrimony from scaling up? Unfortunately, history tells us that collectivist ideas can mushroom into large-scale social disasters.”

My question is how do we alert the general public to let the Tweeter beware?

Mecca is becoming the Las Vegas of Saudi Arabia.  High on tacky kitsch, low on fun?  There won’t be any commercials with the tag line, “What happens on Hajj, stays in Mecca”.

E. J. Dionne is running down the corridor as he tries to rehabilitate Obama in Rekindling Hope in Liberalism.  He uses the standard whiny reason:

For the president’s loyalists, of course, this indictment is profoundly unfair. He inherited a mess at home and abroad. The economic downturn began on Bush’s watch, but its bitter fruits were harvested after Obama took office. By contrast, Franklin Roosevelt took power after Herbert Hoover had presided over three of the most miserable years in American economic history. Blame was firmly fixed on Hoover by the time FDR showed up with his jaunty smile and contagious optimism.

And, yes, there is the small issue of Obama’s real achievements, the health care law above all. If insuring 32 million more Americans is not an enormous social reform, then nothing can be said to count as change. The now well-rehearsed list of additional accomplishments — from Wall Street and student loan reform to the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to the simple fact that the economy’s catastrophic slide was halted and reversed — would, in the abstract, do any administration proud.

I would have written that first line of the second paragraph as “And, yes, there is the real issue of Obama’s small achievements…” E. J. is still clinging to the idea that no one could have known how bad it was going to be so it was perfectly reasonable to nominate the candidate with the least practical experience in our lifetimes to become president.  I simply can’t take this reasoning seriously when the poor performance was avoidable.  But the E.J. goes one better and has the nerve to lecture *us*:

And both the liberals and Obama need to escape the bubbles of legislative and narrowly ideological politics and re-engage the country on what can only be called a spiritual level. Modern American liberalism is not some abstract and alien creed. At its best, it marries a practical, get-things-done approach to government with a devotion to fairness, justice and compassion. These sentiments are grounded in the nation’s religious traditions and also in our commitment to community-building that Alexis de Tocqueville so appreciated.

Stop laughing.  Yes, he really said this.  E.J. needs to get out of his own bubble.  The “achievements” aren’t.  By practical standards, the health care reform bill was a bomb.  The mandate was an outrage in the absence of competition.  If you have stagnant wages and fear that you’re going to lose your job, the last thing you need is yet another expense you can’t afford that doesn’t result in something better than you already had.  The TARP bills rescued the banks and left everyone else hold the bag.  The stimulus bill was too small.  HAMP is almost criminal.

I don’t know who the hell E.J. has been talking to but from a practical, non-abstract, working class POV, this president has been an abject failure.  You don’t have to be a liberal to realize that but liberals have every reason to have expected better than this.  I don’t believe in the self-esteem movement where everyone gets a gold star for trying.  I believe you have no right to think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread until you’ve proven yourself. Republicans aren’t becoming suddenly sexy again because regular Americans are crazy about conservatism .  There are two reasons why Republicans are winning: 1.) Americans don’t buy the boosterism of the current administration.  No one believes in Recovery Summer or Recovery Fall or Recovery Winter or whatever nonsense they’re spouting this week.  They’re believing their lying eyes. and 2.) When your base stays home in disgust, that leaves the  Fox News viewers who have been emotionalized by Glenn Beck and abortion as the motivated voters who actually go to the polls.

You can’t reason the Democrats’ failures away by blaming the voters’ perceptions, E.J.  What the Democrats need to do if they want to recapture the public is to start acting more like Democrats.  Ooops!  Too late, they’ve lost the House and they’re preemptively capitulating before the Republicans even officially take over.  Don’t think the public doesn’t notice.

What the public *might* notice is Ed Rendell. Yeah, I think the idea of football being played in a blizzard is sort of stupid too.  But this is Philadelphia.  It’s not a city of wusses.  And Ed Rendell may be the rough and tough, unibrowed Democrat the party needs to man up.  BTW, that’s just a figure of speech.  Apparently, Ed Rendell plucks his brows.  And this is not an endorsement.  It’s just an idle speculation.

But I do take issue with some of this articles’ points.  For example, Ed probably did say  “that his state was full of “conservative whites” who were “probably not ready to vote for an African- American candidate.”  This is true.  There are a lot of areas in the middle of the state that fly confederate flags on their porches.  HOWEVER, those porches belong to Republicans.  How do I know that?  I talked to the canvassers who visited those areas.  They had the party affiliation sheets with the addresses.  The Democrats that I spoke to while phone banking in Harrisburg were of the opinion that they wanted an experienced person in the White House.  They were hurt that people were calling them bigots and they said they were willing to vote for Obama some time down the road.  So, Ed really needs to be clear about who his constituents are and what they are thinking.

Things to keep your eye on:  Senator Bernie Sanders, of filibernie fame, will be on Thom Hartmann’s show today to discuss the year in review.  The schedule thingy looks a little chaotic to me so check back periodically for the stream.

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